Today, the Delaware Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the activities of the British in the Delaware Bay 203 years ago.
From the book, Some Records of Sussex County, Delaware compiled by C. H. B. Turner of Lewes and published in 1909:
March 13th, 1813, the Bay was blockaded by three frigates. of seventy-four guns each and smaller vessels.
The frigates Poictiers, Belvidere, had been sent from Norfolk.
One of the papers speaking of arrival of the fleet says:—
“Our inhabitants are in a great state of alarm. On Saturday a British seventy-four came into the Delaware, and is now about ten miles within the Capes. On Monday a frigate anchored alongside. Last night, at twelve o’clock, two of the Cape May Pilot-boats were driven in Maurice River and captured by the enemy.”
The militia was assembled on the coast. In a letter to a friend in Baltimore dated March 20th, General Green says:—
“We have a British fleet at the Capes of the Delaware. They have burned several vessels and taken others. We have had an engagement with them from the shore. Our ammunition gave out, or we would have prevented from burning the Charleston packet. They had four large boats full of men, and came within two hundred yards of the shore. I am now on my way to Lewistown, where there are one thousand men under arms. We have men sufficient to prevent them from landing, but we are in want of ammunition, which we shall be supplied within a few days.”
Shortly after the arrival of the British fleet, its commander, Commodore J. Beresford, sent the following letter “to the first magistrate of Lewistown.”
“Sir:—As soon as you receive this, I must request you will send twenty live bullocks, with a proportionate quantity of vegetables and hay, to the Poictiers, for the use of his Brittanic Majesty’s Squadron, now at this anchorage, which shall be immediately paid for at the Philadelphia prices.
“If you refuse to comply with this request, I shall be under the necessity of destroying your town.”
If the ﬁrst magistrate of Lewes had sent the supplies, it would have cost him his life.
It, the letter, was sent to Governor Haslet at Dover. He immediately left Dover and came to Lewes.
In a letter to the British Commodore dated March 23d in a reply to the letter sent to the first magistrate, Governor Haslet says:—
“As Governor of the State of Delaware, and as commander of its military force, I improve the earliest time afforded me, since my arrival at this place, of acknowledging the receipt of your letter to the chief magistrate of Lewes.
“The respect which generous and magnanimous nations, even when they are enemies, take pride in cherishing towards each other, enjoins it upon me as a duty I owe the State over which I have the honor at this time to preside, to the government of which this State is a member, and to the civilized world, to enquire of you whether upon further and more mature reflection, you continue resolved to attempt the destruction of this town.”
Beresford replied the same day as follows:—
“In reply to your letter received today, by a flag of truce, in answer to mine of the 16th inst., I have to observe, that the demands l have made upon Lewistown is, in my opinion, neither ungenerous nor wanting in that magnanimity which one nation ought to observe with another with which it is at war.
“It is in my power to destroy your town, and the request I have made upon it, as the price of its security, is neither distressing nor unusual. I must therefore persist, and whatever sufferings may fall upon the inhabitants of Lewes must be attributed to yourselves by not complying with a request so easily acquiesced in.”
Not until April 7th did Beresford make the attack.
What happened next? To be continued on Apr 7…
The Delaware Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of the Delaware River, circa 1810s.